It was disrespectful to demand an apology from Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelithini for an alleged gay slur, traditional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal said on Tuesday.
“We condemn the gays and lesbian group [for questioning] His Majesty iMbube to apologise to them,” the provincial Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) said in a statement.
“This shows how disrespectful they are and worse to the point of that they would approach the king on twisted facts. They are just seeking fame out [of] our king.”
The group said Zwelithini had in fact raised concerns about moral decay.
“The king does not owe anyone an apology.”
The Commission for Gender Equality called for the retraction of the statement.
It was concerned because lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and intersexed people (LBTI) were constantly being discriminated against, it said.
“This falls against the backdrop of hate crimes that are flaring up in our country due to other people not wanting to accept others, who have different sexual orientation contrary to theirs,” spokesperson Javu Baloyi said in a statement.
“We call for the retracting of that unfortunate and improper statement by Zwelithini. We will also be writing to him personally highlighting our discomfort at a leader in his position not promoting what is contained in the Constitution,” said Baloyi.
According to the Times, Zwelithini told guests in Nquthu that “traditionally”, there were no people who engaged in same sex-relationships.
“There was nothing like that and if you do it, you must know that you are rotten. I don’t care how you feel about it. If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same sex is not acceptable,” he was quoted as saying.
Zwelithini reportedly said this as he delivered his speech on Sunday at the 133rd commemoration of the January 22 1879 battle of Isandlwana. The event was also attended by President Jacob Zuma.
Gay and lesbian activist groups criticised the king’s reported statement.
Contralesa said the journalist who wrote the story should have sought clarity before writing his report based on “twisted” information.
Earlier on Monday, the South African Human Rights Commission said it would write to the king to ascertain whether he made the statements and if he did, to immediately retract them.
It would also raise the issue with President Zuma.
KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize wanted to meet the commission’s head, Lawrence Mushwana, to discuss allegations against Zwelithini, his spokesperson Ndabe Sibiya said on Tuesday.
“[He] strongly feels that the public has been misled.”
He said Mkhize was disappointed at the interpretation the king’s speech.
According to Mkhize, the Zulu king denounced any form of abuse, and did not lash out at gays and lesbians.
Addressing members of the royal household portfolio committee in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature on Tuesday, Mkhize challenged anyone who claimed to have evidence of a homophobic statement made by the Zulu king to produce it.
He played a DVD of Zwelithini’s speech, which he said did not contain an attack on gays.
Sibiya said Mkhize felt it was important for him to meet Mushwana so he could explain what the king said and provide him with a copy of the speech and the DVD.
Like Contralesa, Sibiya said Mkhize was disappointed that the commission had commented before it had the facts.
On Monday, the Zulu royal household criticised the “reckless translation” of Zwelithini’s speech.
“At no stage did His Majesty condemn gay relations or same sex relations,” his spokesperson Prince Mbonisi Zulu said. — Sapa